Heat safety outreach campaign launched by Auburn University employees and Staff Council

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A new community service campaign to inform the public about the dangers of heat-related issues has been launched by the Auburn University Staff Council.

"Beat the Heat, Check the Back Seat" is the brainchild of College of Veterinary Medicine employees Hollie Lee and Sharron Barney, who serve on the Auburn University Staff Council's Health and Wellness Committee.

Through their work and that of members of Auburn University's Staff Council, the group has the support of university and community officials and has received a small grant from the university's Concessions Board. They have launched a Facebook Page, "Beat the Heat Check the Backseat," and have printed vehicle decals to remind people of the serious issue.

The decals will be available at the Auburn and Opelika Chambers of Commerce and the Auburn University Bookstore.

"The purpose is to save lives of children and animals, which are especially vulnerable in overheating vehicles," said Lee, who was moved by an incident she witnessed.

Lee said the idea started following a trip to a local business, where she witnessed a dog locked inside a car and in distress. "While the windows of the car were cracked, you could tell the dog was in distress and there was no one around," she said. "I went inside the business but I also called the police. Luckily, the owners came out of the store and the dog was fine."

But because of the incident, Lee started thinking about what should happen. She and Barney started brainstorming about what they could do and interested the university Staff Council in taking action.

The council enlisted the support of the university's Office of Public Safety and Security as well as Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones.

"The national Weather Service indicated that heatstroke in vehicles accounts for 61 percent of non-crash-related fatalities involving children 14 and younger," university public safety and security officials Chance Corbett and Susan McCallister wrote in a support letter. "These tragic deaths are preventable."

Sheriff Jay Jones agreed, writing, "Protecting people, particularly children, and pets by ensuring they are not subject to the extreme heat in a vehicle on a southern summer day should be a key concern of everyone."

"We want to tell the Auburn University family and ask for their help to tell the community and public," Lee said.

The council advocates four steps for the public to follow if they see a situation:

- Record information about the vehicle

- Alert the management of the business

- Call 911

- Stay with the vehicle until police arrive

They caution bystanders,however, to not take matters into their own hands. "Safe bystander intervention is what we are recommending," Lee added.

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Auburn University is a nationally ranked land grant institution recognized for its commitment to world-class scholarship, interdisciplinary research with an elite, top-tier Carnegie R1 classification, life-changing outreach with Carnegie’s Community Engagement designation and an undergraduate education experience second to none. Auburn is home to more than 30,000 students, and its faculty and research partners collaborate to develop and deliver meaningful scholarship, science and technology-based advancements that meet pressing regional, national and global needs. Auburn’s commitment to active student engagement, professional success and public/private partnership drives a growing reputation for outreach and extension that delivers broad economic, health and societal impact.